Indian poet-lyricist Gulzar at the SIBF 2019. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today
Imran Mojib, Special Correspondent
In any society, people should be free and fearless to express their feelings and opinions, said Oscar winning poet-lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar, while interacting with his fans at the 38th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF 2019).
During the two-hour interactive session, the stalwart of Indian film industry opened his mind on his literary and film life and gave the audience a glimpse of his vision on various issues pertaining to the film industry as well as to the society.
The poet extraordinaire started his career as a songwriter with legendary music director SD Burman in “Bandini” (1963). Since then he has worked with many composers including RD Burman, Salil Chaudhary, Vishal Bhardwaj and AR Rahman. It was his association with AR Rahman, for the song “Jai Ho” from the film “Slumdog Millionaire,” which brought him an Academy Award as well as a Grammy.
When asked about the reasons why songs of the 1950s were missing in recent times, Gulzar said that the films and their songs are a reflection of society and that when society changes, the nature of film and songs will change.
Elated by the overwhelming response to his session at the Sharjah International Book Festival the poet remarked, “If only my films too had drawn such crowds!”
He applauded the SIBF organisers for successfully hosting a literature-cultural festival at such a grand scale and expressed his happiness at finally being able to experience Sharjah as well as the SIBF.
“I am very happy to be here and experience the friendliness of this emirate and its people. It was such a pleasure just reading the theme of SIBF: ‘Open Books, Open Minds.’ So lovely and so true,” he said.
Gulzar directed his first film “Mere Apne” in 1971. Later he went on to direct films like “Parichay,” “Koshish,” “Aandhi,” “Angoor,” “Khushboo” and “Maachis” that prove that Gulzar’s creative genius is not limited to his lyrical compositions.
Sharing a word of advice to budding writers, Gulzar said, “Never stop reading. When you read 100 pages you will possibly be inspired to write a page. As your writing increases, you may notice that your reading comes down. This in the end will tell on your writing. Keep reading. It is the fuel for your writing.”
Gulzar learnt Bengali to read the original writings of Tagore and ended up translating many of his poems into Hindi. “My latest translation project ‘A Poem a Day’ which will be published soon by HarperCollins, aims at amplifying the voice of young and dynamic poets writing in different languages and dialects from across the country. I have already finished translating 279 poems from 34 languages,” he said.
“I am fascinated by the sheer dynamism of poetry coming from different parts of the country, especially the North Eastern states of India. Translations help preserve the cultural identity of the original work,” he added.
He said that in the case of languages with the same cultural background, there is little chance of loss of meaning when translated from one to another. All Indian languages have meaningful uniformity. Tagore’s Bengali and Vaikom Muhammed Basheer’s Malayalam are pearls in the same necklace.
He stressed that there are so many opportunities open to new writers. “This is the characteristic of the new era. New techniques are well supporting the new authors.”
Gulzar received Padma Bhushan in 2004. He has won the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, the highest accolade in Indian cinema, numerous Indian National Film Awards, twenty-one Filmfare Awards, an Academy Award and a Grammy Award. He also wrote the theme song for the Indian animated sitcom “Motu Patlu.”
Gulzar also wrote poetry, screenplay and dialogue. In the seventies, he directed films such as “Andhi” and “Mausam” and in the eighties, television serial “Mirza Ghalib.” He directed “Kirdar” in 1993.
The audience was moved by the live performance of popular songs penned by Gulzar. Books written by Gulzar were also available allowing booklovers an opportunity to get an autographed copy of the books.
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